This study examines the essential role of ports in the facilitation of trade and their value to the local and national economy. The study further examines the importance of the organisational structure in the port and how this impacts efficiency and the implementation of best practices. Ports infrastructural developments are examined together with the resources that are available for support funding through TEN-T.
The relevance of Corporate Social Responsibility in port operations is also examined. The interaction between port development and environmental concerns is analysed particularly in the context of the Birds and Habitats Directive.
The study draws on the experiences of Dublin Port Company and the changes they have effected to their management structure to ensure the commercial viability of the company.
A number of salient points can be drawn:
· Ports are essential to maintaining and instigating growth in the national economy and have a direct effect on GDP. The estimated economic activity in Ireland that is sustained by Irish ports is approximately €152 billion/yr, with 96% of the benefit attributable to exporters/importers.
· Ports are however, undervalued by the local and national communities which they service. The negative image of ports must be addressed and the benefits extolled. A crucial aspect of this is the investment by the port in a Corporate Social Responsibility programme to engage with the local community and ease concerns surrounding future port development. Ports should develop a soft-values management strategy to highlight the port’s importance to trade and community development.
· The organisational structure within the port is of crucial significance to its efficient and successful operation. Dublin Port Company exemplifies this whereby a move from a service port to a landlord port structure resulted in increased operational efficiency and record profit generation. DPC maintains that the perception that a State-owned organisation cannot operate as effectively as a privately owned corporation is a fallacy.
· The European Commission recognises the importance of ports to the survival of the common market and in the interests of sustainable transport. Support funding strategies are in place to aid the setting up of new shipping services and for port infrastructural development to ensure capacity and sustained growth. Only viable projects will be supported by the Commission under a strict assessment procedure. Funding is available for studies and works and could aid strategic planning in ports by presenting the feasibility of proposed works.
· The unintended effect of the application of environmental legislation on port investment projects is in contradiction with the Commission’s policy objective of creating adequate maritime and intermodal infrastructure to avoid congestion and emissions. Ports need to be aware of the potential impact of their activities on the surrounding environment and should explore all alternatives in consultation with interested groups. Ports must also be cognisant of the Commission’s recent policy documents in this regard.
· Training and up-skilling of all staff is vitally important to a port’s success. The impact is clearly evidenced in Dublin Port Company’s impressive change in key performance indicators following an extensive investment in training.